A Dirty Solution?by Montgomery Area Food Bank on 03/16/15
Our last issue of this newsletter talked about the importance of families. We spoke about how MAFB recognizes the relationship between the family unit and the family meal, with food as the connection. Whether your family is large or small, food serves as the focal point – during daily meals as well as special occasions. We unquestionably use food to celebrate, but along with the need to breathe, the need to eat is a top necessity…. You can’t opt out of the need for food.
As America has changed, our relationship with food has changed. In today’s world we make a list, go to the store, and get what we need. We have forgotten that there are other ways to put food on the table and that we have the capability of participating in that process. An ideal system would connect people with food, and would do it in a way that re-awakens our resolve for independence. The ultimate solution to hunger would do more than just dole out food. It would reconnect us and remind us that we can play a role in feeding ourselves, and that food does not HAVE to originate in a grocery store. A look back at our history will show that we have faced this challenge before – and that we answered that challenge with amazing success.
In 1941, America was grappling with one of the most difficult eras in our history. We were at war, and as American citizens, we wanted to be an asset to our nation, rather than a liability. We did not ask to be rescued – but rather understood that we had to be our own heroes. We understood that if we wanted America to survive the hard times, we could not allow a spirit of dependency to take over. We also recognized that hard work and sacrifice was not a bad thing or something to avoid, but was a good thing that strengthened and united us.
In March 1917, Charles Lathrop Pack organized the US National War Garden Commission and launched the war garden campaign. Set in motion during the WWI era and known as “Liberty Gardens”, as “Victory Gardens” during WWII, and “Relief Gardens” during the Great Depression – these gardens sprang up everywhere. People plowed front yards, lawns, back yards, flower gardens and vacant lots to grow their own vegetables. Even public land was put to use, from the lawn at San Francisco City Hall to the Boston Commons to portions of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. San Francisco's Victory Program became one of the best in the country. There were over 800 gardens in Golden Gate Park. Every park in the city had gardens and many vacant lots were used for growing vegetables.
By 1943, Victory Gardens were producing 8 million tons of food. These gardens relieved the pressure on public food supply brought on by the war. They were a “morale booster” - in that gardeners felt empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown, and produced up to 41 percent of all the vegetables consumed in the nation. Think about that for a minute. 41%. WOW!
MAFB is constantly searching for ways to relieve hunger. Ideally, we will see our clients realize that they have the power to change their own lives. Our desire is for them to recover the faith in themselves, and to put that faith into action—through the hard work and creativity that results in liberty from the limitations they may not even realize were there. There is great possibility within the “Victory Garden” concept that can provide one pathway to that goal. Will it solve all of the problems that poverty creates? Obviously not. But, it can certainly be one of the pieces of the puzzle we work on every day toward that end.
Programs & Publications Coordinator
E.N.D Program Coordinator